Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

While native to most of eastern central Canada and the northeastern US, this evergreen fir’s range ends in western Massachusetts. Though not widespread, they are found throughout Cape Cod, as they were planted to create plantations for harvest. They are still grown for Christmas trees and wreaths, now being one of New England’s largest exports. They typically grow between 45 and 70 feet tall, with ridged bark and a narrow conical top of dark green needled leaves. This, along with the sweet smell of its resinous bark and needles, makes it recognizable within forest and wetland ecosystems.

Balsam fir foliage is a food source for moose, deer, and other large mammals, as well as small birds such as crossbills and chickadees. In September and October, the seed cones ripen and break into winged seeds, which are dispersed by wind and eaten by birds and small mammals. Densely-branched throughout the year, this cold-hardy tree is a common shelter for moose, white-tailed deer, snowshoe hare, and other birds and small mammals. Some favorable native alternatives to plant for similar screening or ornamental benefits may be red spruce, black spruce, or eastern hemlock.